Bagan look to negate Lajong threat in Fed Cup semis

Kolkata: Thirteen times Federation Cup champions Mohun Bagan, who have been in rampant form of late, will take on a spirited Shillong Lajong side in the first leg of the semi-final at the Barasat Stadium here on Sunday.

While Mohun Bagan ran 7-2 aggregate winners over Salgaocar in the quarter-finals, Lajong needed extra time to book their berth, winning 4-3 on aggregate against another Kolkata outfit East Bengal.

The return of star winger Sony Norde has certainly given a new dimension to the hosts, who cruised to a thumping victory in their last round at home. The Haitian is expected to line up alongside Katsumi Yusa on either wings as the city giants look to keep their winning momentum intact.

“The Federation Cup semi-final is obviously a big match. We will obviously play to win. I don’t think there is much of a difference between home and away,” Bagan coach Sanjoy Sen said on Saturday.

“Shillong Lajong are a very good side. They got past East Bengal twice and that it itself is a great achievement. We have to be careful since they possess the necessary players to hurt our chances,” he added.

Sen, however, said that his team had shown that they could score any time and he would make clean sheets his priority, citing Real Madrid’s example.

“A team like Real Madrid boasting the likes of (Gareth) Bale and (Cristiano) Ronaldo — they also scored only a single goal while keeping a clean sheet over two legs. That is the target,” the Mohun Bagan coach said referring to Real’s clash against Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals.

Much would thus depend on the backline of Luciano Sobrosa and Kinshuk Debnath who would look to keep another clean sheet after the Salgaocar encounter.

Lajong coach Thangboi Singto meanwhile praised his team’s grit and determination, as they never gave up even after going 2-1 down against East Bengal and fought back to tie the match and progress to the last four.

“East Bengal and Mohun Bagan are two of the oldest and biggest clubs in India. Every coach and player wants to do well while facing them. As an opponent we have the same respect for them and take motivation from the fact that we have done reasonable well against them,” Singto said.

“Mohun Bagan’s biggest threat stays their attacking line-up. Glen, Jeje, Norde and Yusa can tear apart any defence. Apart from that they also have Indian national team players in their ranks — Pritam (Kotal), Pranoy (Halder), Lenny (Rodrigues) amongst others. They are good in all departments. But we have done well against them and will work hard,” he added.

Uilliams Souza will look to start upfront with Fabio Pena with Penn Orji operating from behind the two front men in a roving role. It will be up to young Nim Dorjee Tamang once again to marshal his defence against the dangerous Bagan attackers.

Robin Gurung will be back in the side while Boithang Haokip will look to reprise his role after a stupendous display against East Bengal.

With the second leg in their own backyard, slated for May 14, Singto said it is important to score an away goal while looking to win the first leg itself.